BEFORE THE CROSS | Glory is manifested equally in trials and victory

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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They plotted to kill him.

Four times, in one form or another, that phrase comes up in this week's readings. It's used in reference to the prophet Jeremiah, Jesus, Joseph and his coat of many colors, and finally the son of the landowner in one of Jesus' parables.

It raises a question for us: How do we think of "glory?"

Often, when we think of glory, we're only thinking of victory: the victory of an athletic team, success at a job, the glory of the Resurrection.

But the full biblical truth is that the trials that come first are part of the glory too. It's helpful to remember that when we face our own trials.

Jeremiah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. Whether you count the number of chapters, verses or words, the Book of Jeremiah is one of the longest in the Bible. But Jeremiah was repeatedly persecuted in his time. The people even tried to kill him. He brought a message of great importance at a pivotal time in Israel's history, and it wasn't popular. His persecution for the sake of God's word is part of his glory, not just a prelude to it.

Joseph is one of the greatest figures in the Old Testament. God saved Israel from famine through his rise to power in Pharaoh's court. But Joseph's brothers plotted his death and then, rather than kill him outright, sold him into slavery. And this is instructive: Immediately after we hear this story on Friday, the Psalm has us proclaim: "Remember the marvels the Lord has done." God is working wonders, even in the midst of this terrible deed. Joseph's trial, and how he handles it, is part of his glory, not just a prelude to it.

The stories of Jeremiah and Joseph foreshadow the glory of Jesus. Jesus tells His apostles that He's going to Jerusalem to be persecuted and killed. The Gospel of John makes the point repeatedly — see chapters 12, 13 and 17 — that this is all part of Jesus' glory.

These three examples suggest a definition. Glory, in the biblical sense, is the manifestation of God's goodness. And God's goodness is manifested equally in trials and in victory. We rejoice to see the triumph of good over evil, most dramatically in the Resurrection. That's God's glory breaking into the world. But when the martyrs die faithfully, that's God's glory breaking into the world, too.

That can be a tremendous help for us when we face our own trials, both individually and collectively as the Church. God's glory can be revealed in our trials — in how we bear them, and how we give witness to our faith during them. Glory doesn't only come after the trial has ended. In light of the Resurrection, glory is being revealed in the trial itself.

When Judas left the Last Supper to betray the Lord, Jesus said: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (John 13:31). Jesus talked about glory, and showed us glory — not only in the Resurrection, but also on the cross. Let's listen to Him and follow Him. Then, if and when we have to suffer for the faith — well, that will be glorious. 

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